Mount St. Helens, WA
Mt. St. Helens is an active volcano located in the Cascade Range of mountains. It is located in Skamania County in the state of Washington. The mountain is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire Mountains, which includes some 160 active volcanoes located in the region. In 1980, the mountain erupted, and it became one of the worst disasters, both economically and deadly in the loss of life in the United States. Since that time, things have changed greatly, including the creation of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. This organization has the job of maintaining this amazing natural giant and studying it to prevent such devastation from happening again.
Today, you can visit the mountain, experience the devastation that has since been replaced by new life that has amazingly overcome the destruction once seen here. A number of activities are available to visitors of the mountain and the surrounding area. When you arrive, you will find a number of high quality hotels, motels and dining facilities to provide you with a warm welcome (though it is highly recommended that you book in advance of these trips.) You will also find plenty of activities throughout the area outside of the mountain range.
A Look at The Mt St Helens Activities
In Mt. St. Helens still lies an active volcano. Although you may not feel the need to venture too close, you are safe in doing so as the mountain is carefully monitored. Still, when you approach, you will find some of the most amazing activities taking place, all of which will provide you with a taste of what actually happened here? Consider the activities as learning experiences as well as challenges.
Stop at the Coldwater Ridge Visitors Center when you first arrive. Here, there are food and gift services for your needs. When you come inside, you will find a picture view of what has happened in the region. You will be able to see how the area survived the "blast zone" and became again as vibrant as ever. You can also enjoy the quarter mile walk through the Winds of Change Interpretive Trail. This is a unique experience and display of what happened on May 18, 1980. You do not dwell on that day, though. Instead, you will see how the winds of change helped to bring back the plants and animals to the region. You will also get to see panoramic views of the mountain as well as the various changes in landscape experienced here. The center features a gift shop, a book sales area, a video wall theater program, exhibits, a restaurant as well as guided tours available upon request.
You will also want to stop by the Johnston Ridge Visitors Center located nearby. This is a great place to stop and talk to people that know the mountain and the surrounding area better than anyone. Those that speak here are rangers and they provide an informative and strangely enough interesting program. The exhibits on hand are excellent and you will enjoy the movies that you see here, too.
Many would love to do nothing more than to get up there and climb near Mt. St. Helen, and rightfully so. Yet, since the area is still recovering from the disasters of 20 some years ago, it becomes important to consider the health and well being of the environment as well as human safety. Therefore, climbing on Mt. St. Helen itself is restricted. You will need a permit to go any higher than 4800 feet in elevation.
What Else Is There To Do?
There is still plenty to do when you visit Mt. St. Helens. For those that want to see the mountain in a unique way, why not take a helicopter flight over the top? You can learn more about this at the Hoffstadt Bluffs Visitors Center located nearby. The flight is available during the summer months and is about 30 minutes in length.
After visiting this visitor's center, move on to the next located as Milepost 33. This is the Charles W. Bingham Forest Learning Center, which is open from May through October. You will learn about the timber industry in the area. One of the unique features here is the way the theater here is designed. It is made to look as if fallen ash is covering it. There is also a playground to enjoy here and you can sit and watch a short film when you visit. Take some time to peer outside where you will find a number of animals often around, including elk. Below you, in the Toutle River Valley you will see wildlife reestablishing in the area.
At the next post, the Coldwater Ridge Visitors Center, you will experience the national monument's official visitor's center, as described earlier. From this post, you will move on to the next location, which is sure to be worth the trek. The Johnston Ridge Observatory is just that, a unique observation into the area. It is located on the mountainside and blends right into it. This is one of the locations still used to monitor activity within the volcano. You can also get on the Boundary Ridge Trail here, which is a hike heading east and gives you one of the best views of the mountain, the damage and the devastation that happened here. It goes on for several miles.
For those that do want to do some hiking on Mt. St. Helens, plan to do so on the Mount St Helen East location where there are fewer crowds and more opportunities. This area also allows you to get to the Windy Ridge Viewpoint, which is perhaps the best vantage point for the crater.
A visit to Mt. St. Helens is awe inspiring, with plenty to show in terms of devastation and life restarted. Learn about the mountain itself, the unique environment that has been created after its destructions. Of course, when you visit you can take advantage of the hiking and climbing available at several of the mountains located nearby to Mt. St. Helens.